Nikola Kodjabashia

The Reveries of the Solitary Walker (Les Réveries du Promeneur Solitaire

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On this album, the title of which refers to an 18th century book by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia takes another step away from academia and toward avant classical crossover. This album feels right at home with the "light" avant-garde opuses of Tibor Szemzö, István Martha, Boris Kovac, and the like (the fact that all of them are from Eastern Europe cannot be only a coincidence). Here, Kodjabashia used a traditional Byzantine chant, "Bogorodichen Tropar," as the basis of the whole album. Each of the nine pieces is conceived as a variation derived from it. The music consists of simple, moving melodies shifting between antiquated Baroque and timeless Eastern European folk, backed by organic, shifting arrangements that include some extended techniques, creative instrumentation, and a particular attention to textures and moods. Kodjabashia plays piano, percussion, and sampler (he also hums a bit in "Ave Tatho"), and conducts the five musicians of Project Z'lust Ensemble plus seven guest players. The instrumentation includes plenty of strings (orchestral and traditional), French horn, electric guitar, piano, and percussion. Highlights include "Cowboyskaya," where the original theme is exposed, accompanied by a fragile, ethereal violin, and "Sugarking," where things suddenly take an upbeat turn. Added as a bonus track, the live recording of "Ludus Gothicus" (featuring violinist Oleg Kondratenko and pianist Maria Pendeva) takes listeners back to an academic setting that contrasts sharply with the warm, slightly nostalgic mood of the previous pieces. It should have been left out. If you like your avant-garde mellow and melodic (Bar Kokhba and some of Marc Ribot's projects also come to mind), Reveries of the Solitary Walker will be right up your alley.

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